The French have known about these allegations since last year.
Paris (CNN)Hungry, homeless young boys in the Central African Republic were forced by French soldiers to perform sex acts on them in return for food or money, the director of an advocacy group said Thursday, citing a confidential United Nations report on alleged abuses.
Paula Donovan, co-director of Aids Free World, told CNN the report detailed testimonies from six children interviewed last year by staff from the U.N. children’s agency UNICEF and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.
The children give harrowing accounts of their own experiences and abuses they had witnessed, and they recounted the experiences of friends of theirs, she said.
The allegations concern French soldiers deployed to the Central African Republic as peacekeepers.
The abuses were allegedly committed against a dozen children at a displaced persons’ camp at M’Poko International Airport in Bangui, the capital of the Central African Republic, between December 2013 and June 2014.
The shocking allegations have prompted French President Francois Hollande to promise strong action if they are confirmed.
“If some soldiers behaved badly, I will be merciless,” he said in comments broadcast by CNN’s French affiliate BFMTV.
“If this information is confirmed, there will be exemplary sanctions.”
Donovan said one boy recounted how a soldier who he’d asked for food had asked him to perform oral sex in exchange. When the boy refused, the soldier asked him to find a woman who would, she said.
Another boy told how a soldier took him inside an army base, overriding the objections of a guard, and sexually abused him there.
The report was sent to her in recent days at Aids Free World, Donovan said, but she was not at liberty to say by whom. The advocacy group shared it with the UK’s Guardian newspaper, which reported on the allegations late Wednesday, saying the report had “confidential” stamped on every page.
The document already had been leaked to French authorities last year.
A U.N. staffer has been suspended over the leak, a statement from the spokesman for U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Wednesday.